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The Sleepless Saint
permit me to go to the Himalayas. I hope in unbroken solitude to
achieve continuous divine communion."
I actually once
addressed these ungrateful words to my Master. Seized by one of
the unpredictable delusions which occasionally assail the devotee,
I felt a growing impatience with hermitage duties and college studies.
A feebly extenuating circumstance is that my proposal was made when
I had been only six months with Sri Yukteswar. Not yet had I fully
surveyed his towering stature.
live in the Himalayas, yet possess no God-perception." My guru's
answer came slowly and simply. "Wisdom is better sought from
a man of realization than from an inert mountain."
plain hint that he, and not a hill, was my teacher, I repeated my
plea. Sri Yukteswar vouchsafed no reply. I took his silence for
consent, a precarious interpretation readily accepted at one's convenience.
In my Calcutta
home that evening, I busied myself with travel preparations. Tying
a few articles inside a blanket, I remembered a similar bundle,
surreptitiously dropped from my attic window a few years earlier.
I wondered if this were to be another ill-starred flight toward
the Himalayas. The first time my spiritual elation had been high;
tonight conscience smote heavily at thought of leaving my guru.
morning I sought out Behari Pundit, my Sanskrit professor at Scottish
have told me of your friendship with a great disciple of Lahiri
Mahasaya. Please give me his address."
Ram Gopal Muzumdar. I call him the 'sleepless saint.' He is always
awake in an ecstatic consciousness. His home is at Ranbajpur, near
thanked the pundit, and entrained immediately for Tarakeswar. I
hoped to silence my misgivings by wringing a sanction from the "sleepless
saint" to engage myself in lonely Himalayan meditation. Behari's
friend, I heard, had received illumination after many years of Kriya Yoga practice in isolated caves.
I approached a famous shrine. Hindus regard it with the same veneration
that Catholics give to the Lourdes sanctuary in France. Innumerable
healing miracles have occurred at Tarakeswar, including one for
a member of my family.
in the temple there for a week," my eldest aunt once told me.
"Observing a complete fast, I prayed for the recovery of your
Uncle Sarada from a chronic malady. On the seventh day I found a
herb materialized in my hand! I made a brew from the leaves, and
gave it to your uncle. His disease vanished at once, and has never
I entered the
sacred Tarakeswar shrine; the altar contains nothing but a round
stone. Its circumference, beginningless and endless, makes it aptly
significant of the Infinite. Cosmic abstractions are not alien even
to the humblest Indian peasant; he has been accused by Westerners,
in fact, of living on abstractions!
My own mood
at the moment was so austere that I felt disinclined to bow before
the stone symbol. God should be sought, I reflected, only within
I left the temple
without genuflection and walked briskly toward the outlying village
of Ranbajpur. My appeal to a passer-by for guidance caused him to
sink into long cogitation.
come to a crossroad, turn right and keep going," he finally
directions, I wended my way alongside the banks of a canal. Darkness
fell; the outskirts of the jungle village were alive with winking
fireflies and the howls of near-by jackals. The moonlight was too
faint to supply any reassurance; I stumbled on for two hours.
of a cowbell! My repeated shouts eventually brought a peasant to
"I am looking
for Ram Gopal Babu."
person lives in our village." The man's tone was surly. "You
are probably a lying detective."
Hoping to allay
suspicion in his politically troubled mind, I touchingly explained
my predicament. He took me to his home and offered a hospitable
is far from here," he remarked. "At the crossroad, you
should have turned left, not right."
earlier informant, I thought sadly, was a distinct menace to travelers.
After a relishable meal of coarse rice, lentil-dhal, and
curry of potatoes with raw bananas, I retired to a small hut adjoining
the courtyard. In the distance, villagers were singing to the loud
accompaniment of mridangas 1 and cymbals.
Sleep was inconsiderable that night; I prayed deeply to be directed
to the secret yogi, Ram Gopal.
the first streaks of dawn penetrated the fissures of my dark room,
I set out for Ranbajpur. Crossing rough paddy fields, I trudged
over sickled stumps of the prickly plant and mounds of dried clay.
An occasionally-met peasant would inform me, invariably, that my
destination was "only a krosha (two miles)." In
six hours the sun traveled victoriously from horizon to meridian,
but I began to feel that I would ever be distant from Ranbajpur
by one krosha.
midafternoon my world was still an endless paddy field. Heat pouring
from the avoidless sky was bringing me to near-collapse. As a man
approached at leisurely pace, I hardly dared utter my usual question,
lest it summon the monotonous: "Just a krosha."
halted beside me. Short and slight, he was physically unimpressive
save for an extraordinary pair of piercing dark eyes.
planning to leave Ranbajpur, but your purpose was good, so I awaited
you." He shook his finger in my astounded face. "Aren't
you clever to think that, unannounced, you could pounce on me? That
professor Behari had no right to give you my address."
that introduction of myself would be mere verbosity in the presence
of this master, I stood speechless, somewhat hurt at my reception.
His next remark was abruptly put.
me; where do you think God is?"
is within me and everywhere." I doubtless looked as bewildered
as I felt.
eh?" The saint chuckled. "Then why, young sir, did you
fail to bow before the Infinite in the stone symbol at the Tarakeswar
temple yesterday?2 Your pride caused you the punishment of being misdirected by the
passer-by who was not bothered by fine distinctions of left and
right. Today, too, you have had a fairly uncomfortable time of it!"
I agreed wholeheartedly,
wonder-struck that an omniscient eye hid within the unremarkable
body before me. Healing strength emanated from the yogi; I was instantly
refreshed in the scorching field.
inclines to think his path to God is the only way," he said.
"Yoga, through which divinity is found within, is doubtless
the highest road: so Lahiri Mahasaya has told us. But discovering
the Lord within, we soon perceive Him without. Holy shrines at Tarakeswar
and elsewhere are rightly venerated as nuclear centers of spiritual
censorious attitude vanished; his eyes became compassionately soft.
He patted my shoulder.
yogi, I see you are running away from your master. He has everything
you need; you must return to him. Mountains cannot be your guru."
Ram Gopal was repeating the same thought which Sri Yukteswar had
expressed at our last meeting.
are under no cosmic compulsion to limit their residence." My
companion glanced at me quizzically. "The Himalayas in India
and Tibet have no monopoly on saints. What one does not trouble
to find within will not be discovered by transporting the body hither
and yon. As soon as the devotee is willing to go even to
the ends of the earth for spiritual enlightenment, his guru appears
I silently agreed,
recalling my prayer in the Benares hermitage, followed by the meeting
with Sri Yukteswar in a crowded lane.
able to have a little room where you can close the door and be alone?"
I reflected that this saint descended from the general to the particular
with disconcerting speed.
your cave." The yogi bestowed on me a gaze of illumination
which I have never forgotten. "That is your sacred mountain.
That is where you will find the kingdom of God."
His simple words
instantaneously banished my lifelong obsession for the Himalayas.
In a burning paddy field I awoke from the monticolous dreams of
sir, your divine thirst is laudable. I feel great love for you."
Ram Gopal took my hand and led me to a quaint hamlet. The adobe
houses were covered with coconut leaves and adorned with rustic
The saint seated
me on the umbrageous bamboo platform of his small cottage. After
giving me sweetened lime juice and a piece of rock candy, he entered
his patio and assumed the lotus posture. In about four hours I opened
my meditative eyes and saw that the moonlit figure of the yogi was
still motionless. As I was sternly reminding my stomach that man
does not live by bread alone, Ram Gopal approached me.
you are famished; food will be ready soon."
A fire was kindled under a clay oven on the patio; rice and dhal were quickly served on large banana leaves. My host courteously
refused my aid in all cooking chores. "The guest is God,"
a Hindu proverb, has commanded devout observance from time immemorial.
In my later world travels, I was charmed to see that a similar respect
for visitors is manifested in rural sections of many countries.
The city dweller finds the keen edge of hospitality blunted by superabundance
of strange faces.
The marts of
men seemed remotely dim as I squatted by the yogi in the isolation
of the tiny jungle village. The cottage room was mysterious with
a mellow light. Ram Gopal arranged some torn blankets on the floor
for my bed, and seated himself on a straw mat. Overwhelmed by his
spiritual magnetism, I ventured a request.
why don't you grant me a samadhi?"
I would be glad to convey the divine contact, but it is not my place
to do so." The saint looked at me with half-closed eyes. "Your
master will bestow that experience shortly. Your body is not tuned
just yet. As a small lamp cannot withstand excessive electrical
voltage, so your nerves are unready for the cosmic current. If I
gave you the infinite ecstasy right now, you would burn as if every
cell were on fire.
asking illumination from me," the yogi continued musingly,
"while I am wondering --- inconsiderable as I am, and with the
little meditation I have done --- if I have succeeded in pleasing God,
and what worth I may find in His eyes at the final reckoning."
you not been singleheartedly seeking God for a long time?"
not done much. Behari must have told you something of my life. For
twenty years I occupied a secret grotto, meditating eighteen hours
a day. Then I moved to a more inaccessible cave and remained there
for twenty-five years, entering the yoga union for twenty hours
daily. I did not need sleep, for I was ever with God. My body was
more rested in the complete calmness of the superconsciousness than
it could be by the partial peace of the ordinary subconscious state.
relax during sleep, but the heart, lungs, and circulatory system
are constantly at work; they get no rest. In superconsciousness,
the internal organs remain in a state of suspended animation, electrified
by the cosmic energy. By such means I have found it unnecessary
to sleep for years. The time will come when you too will dispense
you have meditated for so long and yet are unsure of the Lord's
favor!" I gazed at him in astonishment. "Then what about
us poor mortals?"
don't you see, my dear boy, that God is Eternity Itself? To assume
that one can fully know Him by forty-five years of meditation is
rather a preposterous expectation. Babaji assures us, however, that
even a little meditation saves one from the dire fear of death and
after-death states. Do not fix your spiritual ideal on a small mountain,
but hitch it to the star of unqualified divine attainment.
If you work hard, you will get there."
by the prospect, I asked him for further enlightening words. He
related a wondrous story of his first meeting with Lahiri Mahasaya's
guru, Babaji.3 Around midnight Ram Gopal fell into silence, and I lay down on my
blankets. Closing my eyes, I saw flashes of lightning; the vast
space within me was a chamber of molten light. I opened my eyes
and observed the same dazzling radiance. The room became a part
of that infinite vault which I beheld with interior vision.
you go to sleep?"
can I sleep in the presence of lightning, blazing whether my eyes
are shut or open?"
blessed to have this experience; the spiritual radiations are not
easily seen." The saint added a few words of affection.
At dawn Ram
Gopal gave me rock candies and said I must depart. I felt such reluctance
to bid him farewell that tears coursed down my cheeks.
not let you go empty-handed." The yogi spoke tenderly. "I
will do something for you."
He smiled and
looked at me steadfastly. I stood rooted to the ground, peace rushing
like a mighty flood through the gates of my eyes. I was instantaneously
healed of a pain in my back, which had troubled me intermittently
for years. Renewed, bathed in a sea of luminous joy, I wept no more.
After touching the saint's feet, I sauntered into the jungle, making
my way through its tropical tangle until I reached Tarakeswar.
There I made
a second pilgrimage to the famous shrine, and prostrated myself
fully before the altar. The round stone enlarged before my inner
vision until it became the cosmical spheres, ring within ring, zone
after zone, all dowered with divinity.
happily an hour later for Calcutta. My travels ended, not in the
lofty mountains, but in the Himalayan presence of my Master.
Hand-played drums, used only for devotional music.
Back to text
One is reminded here of Dostoevski's observation: "A man who
bows down to nothing can never bear the burden of himself."
Back to text
See pp. 310-313.
Back to text
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